NOVEMBER 13, 1997
Citizen Advisors Present: Charles Ford, Presiding; Marina Anttila; David Burney, Les Frank, Deborah Haring, Stephen Heck, Leora Mahoney, Emily Simon; Robert Ueland, Randy Weisberg
Citizen Advisors Absent: Jim Taylor, Robert Wells
City Staff Present: Elise Anfield, Mayor's Office; Capt. Bill Bennington, IAD; Lisa Botsko, PIIAC Staff; Adrianne Brockman, City Attorney's Office; Mayor Vera Katz; Sgt. Randy Killinger, IAD; Larry Siewert, Mayor's Office; Sgt. John Smith, IAD
Media Present: David Anderson, The Oregonian
Ford introduced Leora Mahoney, who will be representing North Portland Neighborhood Office. He also arranged for advisors to bring a potluck dish at the December advisory meeting.
Ford called the meeting to order. Simon requested a couple of corrections to the October minutes, and advisors approved them as amended.
#97-18: Heck and Botsko updated the committee about their participation in a Bureau Review Level Committee meeting. Heck said that he had expressed concern about advisors involvement in an EEO case. Botsko said this case involved a Portland police officer, against whom a courtesy allegation had been sustained for an alleged improper remark to the complainant. Advisors had previously requested that the Review Level Committee reconsider the finding, after noting that the investigative summary did not fully or accurately capture that an officer's testimony in the case.
Review Level members received a transcript of that officer's entire testimony. Nevertheless, they voted to uphold the previous finding. Assistant Chief Prunk, the only member who had been present in the original Review meeting, had explained the rationale for sustaining. He believed that the witness officer sufficiently corroborated the complainant's allegation, and that his contradictions were a result of discomfort. Bureau culture makes it difficult for officers to be fully forthcoming in saying anything negative about another officer. Review level members had seen the courtesy allegation as part of an overall pattern, with other allegations.
Botsko said that she had discussed with the Review Level Committee the fact that none of the other allegations against Officer A had been proven, or sustained. Evidently, the existence of these other allegations, even though not sustained, was used to gauge Officer A's credibility with respect to the courtesy allegation. Botsko said that the existence of other, similar allegations can be useful in assessing the likelihood that something occurred, but this is not handled in a uniform manner with citizen-initiated complaints.
Regardless of whether PIIAC ever again audits an EEO case, this one had some deficiencies, and the monitoring subcommittee wished to comment about how EEO cases are handled in an upcoming monitoring report. The committee agreed to this.
Simon made a motion to affirm PPB's original findings; Weisberg seconded. The motion carried [Y-9 ; Abstain-Mahoney].
PIIAC #97-13: The other case discussed before Review Level was contrasted with #97-18. In that case, advisors wanted PPB to look at the overall pattern of that officer's handling of a particular incident. The officer ultimately found himself in a bit of a tactical dilemma, which led to his using "distraction blows" to disengage himself. During deliberations, it was evident that not all Review Level Committee members were aware of previous, similar complaints in which this officer had used "distraction blows." Botsko said that while it was not appropriate for a complaint to be sustained solely because similar ones existed, the history can, in fact, be a useful tool in gauging credibility -- just as it was in #97-18.
Review Level committee members voted to uphold the original findings, exonerating the officer for use of force and procedure (which was modified from the previous category of "Performance." Botsko had noted that the complaint categories used do not quite dovetail with those used by IAD.
Botsko and Heck were told that even if a complaint is not sustained, that doesn't mean the officer did everything perfectly. Supervisors can discuss these issues with officers regardless of the outcome of a case. Botsko had asked the officer's commander if that had been done with the officer in this particular case. It had not.
Simon said that the officer involved in this complaint was the same as in PIIAC Appeal #96-09. The complainant was arrested for jaywalking, and the encounter ultimately escalated to the point where the officer used "distraction blows." Simon said that the officer's rationale and description of the blow were identical in both cases.
She was concerned about the officer's "glaring error" of reaching into a motor vehicle when the engine was still running. She was also concerned about PPB's reliance on deposition testimony in evaluating this complaint. The questions in the advisors' report were not answered: Did the officer use the least amount of force necessary? Did the officer do anything to exacerbate the situation, to the point force became unavoidable?
Simon made a motion to set the case over until January, in order that the advisors re-read the case thoroughly and the appellant appear. Anttila seconded. The motion carried [Y-9; N-Heck].
Simon requested that Botsko also provide copies of #96-09 to advisors before that meeting.
Capt. Bennington said that the Chief has not seen this particular complaint before, but had yet to review it. Therefore, the motion might be premature in the event that he changes the finding.
PIIAC Appeal #97-19: Botsko summarized. (The appellant was not in attendance.) After preliminary review, IAD declined further investigation of the complaint.
The appellant was conducting business at the PPB's Records Office, when his name came up on the computer as potentially having an active warrant issued from another state. The clerk summoned uniformed officers, who detained him, took him to the precinct office in the Justice Center, had him remove his shirt to check for tattoos, and then photographed him. When police determined that the wanted person (with similar name and date of birth) was not the appellant, they released him. The appellant was protesting the entire incident, and also claimed that at some point officers had pushed him against an elevator wall.
Botsko said with the exception of possible use of force, everything he had described was standard procedure. Officers wrote up a subsequent informational report, advising of the similarities with the wanted person, but that they were not to be confused. Simon asked how much weight did the appellant place on the force allegations? Botsko said not much, he mentioned it almost as an afterthought. His main concern seemed to be the detention.
Ueland made a motion to affirm PPB's declination. Simon seconded. The motion carried unanimously. [Y-10].
Weisberg commented on the letter of disposition. He felt more explanation would have been helpful.
PIIAC #97-20: Botsko summarized. After preliminary review, IAD had declined further investigation.
The appellant was returning from some errands, to where her car was parked alongside a curb. She noticed a sports car had parked behind her, creating a very tight fit. The appellant gauged the distance, and believed she had just enough room to get out. She determined that if she touched the car, it would be at the license plate area. Not until she was inside her car did she notice, in her rear-view mirror, that someone [Officer A] was in the sports car. She did in fact "touch" the vehicle, but denies that it was any sort of accident or impact.
As she began to pull away, the person was suddenly banging on her car, and shouting. She had no idea who he was and was alarmed. She continued to pull away, but the person then displayed a police badge through the window. She then went to pull back into the space and Officer A yelled at her not to. He said she could have stripped his gears. He accused her of not being able to see properly when she had trouble reading his license information. She noted that she only requires reading glasses, and her own license does not indicate the need for glasses. After the incident, Officer A requested DMV re-test her. She felt that this was done in retaliation, as she passed the test easily.
Botsko said that any citizen can request DMV retest someone, and did not view this as a significant allegation. However, she did believe that IAD should have explored the courtesy allegation. Generally, PPB has very little latitude to investigate off-duty conduct, but once Officer A identified himself as an officer at the scene, higher standards should apply.
The appellant addressed the committee. She said that another aspect of the complaint was that Officer A parked his car so that it extended well into the crosswalk area. In other words, he was illegally parked. The officer's behavior was so bizarre, she was amazed to learn he was a police officer.
Simon asked Capt. Bennington if he had looked at the DMV request form. Capt. Bennington said yes, and Officer A did indicate on the form that he was a police officer.
Ueland asked the appellant if any insurance claims had been filed. She said no. She added that the Dept. of Motor Vehicles staff had in fact recommended that she file the IAD complaint.
Capt. Bennington said there were essentially two issues in this complaint. DMV allows anyone to request an evaluation. Regarding the courtesy issue, PPB's General Order pertaining to courtesy talk about actions of on-duty officers, officers on paid status. The General Order pertaining to off-duty conduct as well falls under "Standard of Conduct," but that refers to actions that discredit the Bureau or the city. The allegations in this complaint do not reach that level. Illegal parking by off-duty officers falls outside PPB's scope.
Weisberg said that this case "smells" like another case advisors recently reviewed, regarding an officer's off-duty conduct. He was reluctant to send this one back. Simon was troubled by a "half investigation," in which IAD obtains some information, but then "declines" the complaint which precludes it from being recorded on the officer's history.
Antilla asked if any witnesses were available. The appellant said the officer's wife or girlfriend approached them while they were exchanging information.
Simon made a motion to return the case for further investigation; Burney seconded.
Ueland said he planned to vote for the motion. Although officers should be able to exercise their rights as citizens, he was concerned about the alleged behavior given that the officer identified himself as an officer. This is important given the Bureau's encouragement of having officers live in the city, and community policing philosophies.
Weisberg said that he also has difficulty with IAD's declining a complaint after conducting some preliminary inquiry. Capt. Bennington said he does not disagree, although IAD must sometimes conduct preliminary inquiry in order to determine whether to proceed with more investigation, or who should ultimately have investigative responsibility.
Ford says he expects officers to conduct themselves appropriately. He called for a vote.
The motion carried [Y-9; Weisberg-Abstain].
[Haring, Heck and Weisberg left].
Anttila announced that she had gone on her first ride-along the previous week. She went with a female officer who was an acting sergeant that night. They had to respond to a suicide; Anttila decided to accompany the officers inside. The subject had shot herself in the head, and it was gruesome.
Anttila also reported on a conference she had attended with Botsko, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). Approximately 135 attended the conference in the Bay area. Lots of information was provided, ACLU had an interesting speaker.
Botsko added that former Portland police chief Penny Harrington was one of the panelists. The audit model is gradually gaining favor as a model of civilian review. Portland is unique in that it incorporates an audit model with a citizen panel. Many other cities with more traditional review boards report constant legal battles and adversarial relationships. Subpoena power seems to be a divisive issue; some boards gain subpoena power after protracted legal battles, only to have officers appear and plead the Fifth Amendment. She came away with the impression that Portland is doing a lot of things right, and PIIAC is fortunate to have the degree of support from the Police Bureau, Mayor and City Council.
Botsko also said that a keynote speaker had some interesting things to say about review or oversight boards holding themselves to high standards. Going on ride-alongs, attending a Citizens Academy, having seminars -- these are all goals that PIIAC members should have in order to meet standards of excellence themselves.
Ford announced that City Council recently honored two officers as City Employees of the Year, as part of the Spirit of Portland Awards. Botsko said that she and Ford had nominated an officer on behalf of PIIAC, for the Chief's Forum Nathan Thomas Memorial Award. This officer was a CIT officer who had rescued a suicidal man off the Fremont Bridge.
Scott Freshner addressed the committee. He said advisors had heard his appeal the previous month, and had requested that he be given the opportunity to mediate. He wondered why Botsko had not reported back.
Capt. Bennington said he had only just learned that the officer had declined mediation. Advisors requested that Freshner return in January, so they could then resolve the matter.
Nena Williams addressed the committee. She suggested that letters to complainants advising them of Council action include an explanation that the Chief has the final authority.
A KBOO reporter addressed the committee. She said that when the last monitoring report was presented to City Council, she heard Leo Painton recommend to Council that IAD not accept third party complaints. Capt. Bennington responded that that was one person making a suggestion. Botsko said that was unlikely to ever become the procedure, because there are situations in which a third party may have pertinent information about a significant inciden.
Burney introduced Gene Bales, a potential replacement for him.
Capt. Bennington announced that Sam Houston University had received a Dept. of Justice grant to study complaints and complaint investigations. Portland was one of the cities chosen for review because it has a citizen review component. Bennington explained that only the first phase of the study has been completely formulated. The study will attempt to determine who complains and who does not, and survey the opinions of those who have gone through the complaint process.
Botsko said the Rap Sheet had published an editorial that she thought was inaccurate. She had prepared a response on behalf of the citizen advisors.
Simon made a motion to accept the letter; Anttila seconded. The motion carried unanimously [Y-7].
The meeting adjourned.